- September 25, 2020
- Posted in Reports
This report provides a detailed overview and comparison of policies developed in the United States of America (US), Canada and several Western European countries – Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom (UK) – in response to calls from the United Nations (UN) and other international actors for the repatriation of foreign fighters and their family members from Syria and Iraq. These Member States of the UN have been confronted with ethical, legal and practical challenges in responding to the phenomenon of foreign fighters since large numbers of people migrated from these countries to Syria and Iraq. Since the collapse of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other affiliated terrorist groups in both countries, calls to repatriate foreign fighters have only heightened as thousands of people find themselves detained in prisons or camps controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The latter is a non-state actor, consisting of mainly Kurdish forces and backed by a US-led coalition. Like all other state counterparts, the countries of North America and Western Europe included in this report have been considering and discussing three options for dealing with returning foreign fighters: transfer to and prosecution in Iraq; the creation of a new dedicated international tribunal in an existing international court; or repatriation and prosecution before domestic courts where appropriate. The following report will illustrate how these western states have typically taken a ‘hard’ approach towards foreign fighters and their families.
The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation estimates that, between early 2011 and early 2013, a minimum of 140 and up to 600 Europeans traveled to Syria. By late 2013, experts estimate that number had increased to between 1,100 and 1,700 Europeans. A March 2018 report from the UN Security Council (UNSC) Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate stated that an estimated 5,718 foreign fighters in Syria originated from Western Europe. Western Europe was the third-largest source of foreign fighters in the wake of the Syrian conflict, surpassed only by the former Soviet Union and the Middle East (second-largest and largest, respectively). The same report estimated that 439 foreign fighters originated from North America, the lowest number from the regions studied.
The full version of the report is available here: Report on State Policies